Homeward Bound

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In her book Homeward Bound, Elaine Tyler May explores the role of the nuclear family in the Cold War Era, and the question of why young adults in the 1950s began a trend of marrying earlier, staying married, and having larger families. She also explores at the contradicting images of the 1950s in the United States, noting that on the one hand, the 1950s are seen as a time of prosperity and tranquillity, with a rise of domesticity and a focus on family life, while on the other, it was a time period marred by the political repercussions of the Cold War and increased fear and tension on a national level due to concerns about nuclear threats. According to May, “domestic containment” grew from the societal concerns of the post war era, including…show more content…
Beginning with Nixon and Khrushchev’s “Kitchen Debate”, May discusses the home as the place where social forces that presented an ideological threat to the American way would be tamed. The home, she argues, became a literal and figurative bomb shelter, protecting the American people from dangerous outside forces including both atomic weaponry and rogue female sexuality. As she notes, it is no coincidence that it is around this time that women begin to be referred to as “bombshells”. However, as Mays writes and as we discussed in our section, as the culture of the 1950s developed, the true ideal woman of the time was not a “bombshell” like Rita Hayworth. Instead, female sexuality was “harnessed for peace within the home”. (108) Knockouts and bombshells became tamed and domesticated. No longer did they have explosive power; now, they were “chicks”, “sex kittens”, and, of course “Playboy Bunnies”. Former sex symbols became cast as wives and mothers in the films of the time. By creating a societal expectation for women to be homemakers, mothers, and wives, the potential dangers of the “bombshell” are diffused, and the nuclear family and American ideals remain
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